This year’s governor’s race comes down to whether Idaho voters care about crony capitalism, where political cronies and campaign donors profit under the name of “serving the public’s interest.”
Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff is using the stretch run of this campaign to bring up two glaring examples – the Corrections Corporation of America’s failed private-prison management effort and the $60 million broadband contract, which has turned into a nearly $80 million tab for Idaho taxpayers. Both matters involve people, or entities, that have donated generously to Gov. Butch Otter’s campaign.
This isn’t exactly an “October surprise,” since the CCA fiasco, especially, has been in the news lately. And Balukoff isn’t the first gubernatorial candidate to raise issues regarding CCA and broadband contracts. State Sen. Russ Fulcher, who challenged Otter in May’s Republican primary, also touched on those issues. The difference is Fulcher didn’t have the money to make a stink last May; Balukoff does, and he’s flooding television screens with ads and newspapers with press releases.
Balukoff has struck a nerve. After Balukoff ran ads about the CCA, Otter responded with an ad of his own – basically calling Balukoff a liar.
Balukoff is taking a risk. If negative ads work – and history suggests that they do – then the final round of ads will be a big reason why he wins. Or, it can backfire on him if he’s bombarding voters with information that is far too complicated to digest. There is nothing simple about the issues he’s presenting, and Otter supporters couldn’t care less.
Otter’s campaign also has taken a negative turn, mostly using the traditional rhetoric that Republicans use against Democrats. He paints Balukoff as a spend-happy liberal who wants to bleed Idahoans with higher taxes and compromise our 2nd Amendment rights – which probably ruffles more feathers than higher taxes. The ads falsely assume that a Democratic governor has any influence over a Republican Legislature.
There’s not much Balukoff can do that the GOP hasn’t done to itself. Otter and Republican leaders in the Legislature already have established a statewide health exchange program, a centerpiece of Obamacare. They have given their backing to Common Core education standards, a favorite of the liberal social engineers. Balukoff probably will take the lead in promoting Medicaid expansion if he wins, but that’s no culture shock to Republicans. The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry – the right arm of the Otter campaign – already is on the front row of support for that issue. (more…)